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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Maoists talks with UN 'positive'
Maoist rebels in Nepal
The rebels have differed with the government over giving up arms
The leader of Nepal's Maoist rebels says he has held a "very positive" meeting with a visiting United Nations team over the country's peace process.

The rebels have extended a ceasefire but urged the interim government to "advance the peace talks".

The rebels called a truce after King Gyanendra ended direct rule and restored parliament in April.

The Maoists and a seven-party alliance clinched a landmark power-sharing deal in June.

More than 13,000 people have died in violence in Nepal since the rebels began their fight for a republic 10 years ago.

During the insurgency, there have been two other sets of peace talks, three years ago and five years ago.

'Key to peace'

The leader of the UN team, Staffan de Mistura, has said that he would hold extensive talks with the government and the Maoists during the course of the week-long visit.

"The meeting was very important and very positive and we are very much encouraged," Maoist leader Prachanda was quoted as saying after Friday's meeting by the AFP news agency.

Separately, he issued a statement declaring that the ceasefire had been extended by three months.

"Expressing the commitment and responsibility (for peace) our party has extended the ceasefire for another three months," Prachanda said.

He said an eight-point understanding between the rebels and the government last month was key to establishing peace.

We strongly urge the government to show eagerness to advance the peace talks
Prachanda, Maoist leader

"But the government and seven political parties are trying to back out from it under different pretexts," he said.

"We strongly urge the government to show eagerness to advance the peace talks .. otherwise we will be forced to declare another strong peaceful movement," Prachanda said.

Some analysts say that the Maoists' failure to make their truce indefinite, as the government has done, shows that the rebels are still some distance away from mainstream politics.

But the BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says the Maoists will be pleased at this level of UN involvement, something they have long wanted.

The government and the rebels have differed recently over a government plan for the United Nations to be involved in the decommissioning of the rebels' weapons.

Correspondents in Kathmandu says that these differences are unlikely to derail the peace process which it is hoped will culminate in bringing an end to the decade-old conflict.

The political landscape has been shaken up since the king restored representative rule.

Opposition parties - who had been speaking to Prachanda while out of power - have since joined the government.

The new government has released rebels from jail, dropped terrorism charges against them and agreed to the ceasefire.

But differences remain between the two sides over the future of the monarchy.

The rebels hope elections will clear way towards abolishing the monarchy, but the prime minister has ruled that out.

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